The Easter weekend has been and gone, thankfully with great weather back in England, unlike those we left in Prague who actually had sleet and snow over Easter. We missed the wonderful holy processions and other Prague celebrations but we did have our beautifully hand painted Prague Easter eggs hanging on some pussy willow branches.
In Prague and throughout the Czech Republic the branches are used in quite a different way. They are woven together to form a whip, with coloured ribbons to make them attractive and are called pomlázka. Men take the sticks and beat the women with them, in return the women give the men either alcohol or sweets. Traditionally a woman who has been whipped will remain beautiful and fertile for the coming year. Even old grannies like to have a whipping, it makes them feel youthful, allegedly. You can imagine the scene of screaming young ladies, excited whip brandishing men, alcohol and chocolate eggs. What a party! On Easter Tuesday, it all goes the other way, when women have buckets of cold water and throw them over the men. All in the name of tradition. These customs were banned under Communism, making them all the more desirable and fun now. There are also cakes in the shape of a lamb lying down, it is a soft white sponge and has its origins with the church, unlike the whipping which is more Pagan, beating out winter and inviting in fertile new life of Spring.
There are also Easter egg decorating competitions, the Czech hand painted egg is known as Kraslice and are held in very high regard in the Czech Republic. In the run up to Easter there were markets, similar to those at Christmas time, all over Prague, selling the decorated eggs and whips. The husband was chatting to one of the sellers and she was telling him that the eggs are real chicken eggs, blown out, to remover the insides and carefully hand painted throughout the year. Then the families come into Prague and other larger cities to sell their crafted eggs. It is a highly regarded industry with a National Competition to find the best decorated egg in the Czech Republic. We had a few of these eggs to give away as Easter gifts to friends and family back in England.
I have a large family!. When we invited my family over for Easter it reached 23, we also invited the in-laws and that brought us up to a handy 25 for Easter Sunday lunch. We managed to squeeze onto two tables in the dinning room and demolish our way through two legs of Spring lamb, with all the usual trimmings. The younger members of the family were just desperate to see if the Easter bunny had been. They scoffed down their lunches, eldest son and youngest daughter then snuck off to hide the goodies, whilst middle daughter played games with them, only just long enough for there to be enough time to hide the goodies. It was then a case of ‘ready-steady-go!’ and off they went with their baskets. We took our wine glasses outside and watched the mayhem unfold as they scrambled around searching for eggs and small gifts with their names on. It was luckily a sunny day, unlike previous years when we had to put on wellie boots, hats and scarves, this year is was sunny and mild.
Our Easter Monday involved different whips to those used in Czech Republic, we went off to the point-to-point. This is local horse racing over fences, part of hunting and leads into the big races held in the England, like the Grand National or Cheltenham Gold Cup. The whips here are used only for the horses or occasionally on the jockeys if they dare to not adhere to the trainer’s instructions. This one locally is well attended by everyone in their tweeds and flat caps, bets are placed and local stall holders wait for you to spend your winnings on firepits, beer and countryside clothing. We took a picnic met up with friends and had a fun day. That evening my local walking group came over for a dinner. They go out every Saturday at 9.30am, come sun, rain or snow. There are light refreshments in the form of flasks of coffee and tea, with a biscuit or two. We are known as the LUVS, a name Terry came up with: Lambourn Upper Valleys Striders, although he sometimes refers to us as slappers! I don’t see enough of these friends now I am no longer here full time, it is lovely to get them together. They arrived Monday evening for some Paella and wine, we ate and chatted, then got the lovely Kevin on the guitar. He can crack out a tune, my feet the next day were aching from all the stomping on the floor, keeping up with the rhythm of his songs. As Bernie, wonderful Irish friend rightly put it, the ‘Craic’ was great! It was the perfect end to a celebratory Easter weekend, singing along till midnight to our favourite tunes. A fun time was had by all. (Whipping was an optional extra!)